From the artist’s project statement: “In the 1930s, migrant laborers came from all over the region to work on the construction of a 3-mile tunnel to divert the New River near Fayetteville, WV. During the process, workers were exposed to pure silica dust due to improper drilling techniques. Many developed a lung disease known as silicosis, which is estimated to have caused the death of nearly 800 workers. Up to two-thirds of those workers were African American. Besides a small plaque at the Hawks Nest State Park, which lists a significantly lower number than the actual number killed, there is very little to mark the site. There is also sparse visual documentation available about the event. There has been an effort to erase this tragic moment in history from the memory of West Virginia.
In Appalachian Ghosts, I explore visual possibilities of what that time and place looked like, using primary-source materials to recreate the workers’ experiences in photographs. I have also recontextualized and re-presented archive photographs, originally made to document the construction of the Hawks Nest Tunnel dam and powerhouse. The few people caught in the photographic archive were often nameless and voiceless workers. Specifically, I’m looking at what has been left out of African-American visual history, which to date has mainly been documented with a colonial gaze. From this standpoint, I have sought to re/create work that has been informed by and made from historical documents and photographs.
My research also focused on working with non-visual resources that inspired the creation of new works. I researched news clips, letters, poetry and other cultural resources looking for information that described the experience of working in the tunnel. I was particularly struck by a poem from Muriel Rukeyser’s book The Book of the Dead called “George Robinson: Blues:”
As dark as I am. when I came out at morning after the tunnel at night with a white man, nobody could have told which man was white. The dust had covered us both, and the dust was white. -Muriel Rukeyser “The Book of the Dead”
Rukeyser’s book, along with other primary-source documents, inspired a series of images that focuses on the silica dust that covered everything at the work site.”
GPS Starts the 2020 season with a night of music by Émilie Clepper.
Émilie Clepper brings an incredibly unique sound mixing Quebec with Texas, folk with country and gospel. Her inspirations include Edith Piaf, Cat Power, Lhasa and Portishead.
Americana/country/folk artist Emilie Clepper brings one of the genre’s finest new voices and an eclectic musical background to present music that is fresh, moving and memorable. Since her young teens, Emilie has travelled back and forth between her native Quebec and her father’s Texas and counts folk, bluegrass, gospel and roots country among her most enduring influences. She was a repeat performer in several major festivals in Canada and the US, including the Montreal Jazz Festival.
・・・ #Repost @queerappalachia
I have a piece of art showing at The @smithsonian’s @hirshhorn opening this weekend. I am grateful to have the platform to talk about the opioid crises & Appalachian politics, especially where they intersect. We live in a time of digital news cycles & shorthand dog whistles like “Trump Country” that help keep #JDVance on the NYT bestseller list. It used to be every major media outlet had a “hot take” on Appalachia. Now, it feels like EVERYONE does. That’s why it’s important for Appalachians to make art & tell their own stories. On a personal note, opioid addiction & my body’s unique response to processing the Rx’s, Opioid Neurotoxicity has been the largest obstacles I have navigated in my life. Opioids help with my pain but I become untethered to reality. I live with a chronic debilitating painful auto immune disorder, pain management will be a huge part of my life the rest of my life. Trying to understand the treatment options that are available to me for pain management has meant that Opioid Neurotoxicity has been a predominate part of my life for the past decade . My relationship to opioids / how my body processes them has impacted every relationship in my life. Being able to make things has been the most healing & positive for me. From public art to homespun handmade work, making things helps me be present & in the moment. As an Artist that almost lost their life to opioids I support the work of @sacklerpain. PAIN has worked tirelessly to hold the Sackler family accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic as owners of #PurduePharmaceuticals. In the June @vanityfair interview with #DavidSackler, David said “the family’s philanthropy is being rejected”. ONLY @ prestigious cultural institutions. What David is really saying is no one will take our money that we want to give it to. The Sackler’s have never explored #opioidreperations. I get it, wings of international museums named after you is sexier than building back the communities that you profited from their literal #deathtoll.
For the January Thomas Art Walk we will add work from Emily Prentice and Gina Mamone to the ongoing exhibition by Kimberly Joy Trathen.
Gina Mamone is an audio engineer & maker living in the coalfields of West Virginia. Mamone engineered and produced some of the first Riot Grrrl albums to come out of the PNW. Up until 2014 Mamone was President of Riot Grrrl Ink. the largest queer record label in the world, with an artist roster of over 200 that ranged from the Gay Ole Opry to Andrea Gibson. In 2014, in an act of solidarity with the emerging #BLM movement and in an intentional act of reparations & redistribution of wealth, Mamone gave RGI to Awqward, the first queer POC/indigenous talent agency. As the Creative Director of the Queer Appalachia Project, they communicate with over a quarter of a million queers & allies daily who call home below the Mason-Dixon through the project. Mamone is also an Editor at the looking at Appalachia Project & is currently collaborating with Nan Goldin’s PAIN project.
Emily Prentice is a forever novice, a devotee to beginnings, and the Zine Queen of Randolph County. Her work focuses on the meeting place of the natural and the supernatural (the ways in which we’re of this world and beyond it), and it exists in the form of quilts, zines, drawings, and teaching. Find Emily’s creative practice online at www.emilyprentice.com.
Solo Exhibition of reclaimed leather quilts by Kimberly Joy Trathen
Opening November 10, 2018 – 6-9pm
The textiles and garments that surround us silently accompany us through the unfolding experiences of our lives. New stories are gathered. New histories are created. The materials become charged with a spirit that is not reproducible – a kind of social life or aura created by its own unique history.
I create new work from old things: new bags from discarded leather coats, wallets from unwanted jackets, quilts from textile and leather remnants. For this body of work, I have woven scraps from previous projects into new works. The result is a charged piece of art, activated not only by my own hands, but from the material’s previous lives. Another layer is added to its history.
The humble roots of this practice – mostly utilitarian work-clothes quilts – fascinate me. They have helped inspire and guide my work in its present direction. The current exhibition explores variations on the traditional quilt pattern, Dutchman’s Puzzle.
Gradient transforms into a Prohibition-era art house theatre as Stephanie Nilles and Thomas Deakin perform a live, original musical score to Tod Browning’s 1927 silent horror film The Unknown (Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford).
“On the run from the law, Alonzo (Lon Chaney) hides in the circus as The Armless Wonder — a performer who uses his feet to hurl knives. Alonzo actually has the use of his arms but keeps them concealed so that his true identity remains under wraps. Meanwhile, Alonzo falls in love with another performer, Nanon (Joan Crawford), who has a phobia against being touched by a man. But when the circus owner (Nick De Ruiz) discovers Alonzo’s true identity, the performer makes a tragic decision.”